FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr Not Interested In Baltimore Prosecutor's Request To Have The FCC Investigate Her Critics

from the FCC-isn't-here-to-help-you-curtail-other-people's-rights dept

Earlier this month, Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby decided to do something she definitely shouldn't have. Mosby may claim to be part of the "progressive prosecutor" movement, but her decision to ask the federal government to investigate a prominent critic of hers is pretty goddamn regressive.

Mosby doesn't care for the allegedly slanted coverage she's receiving from WBFF, a local Fox affiliate. Rather than accept the fact that criticism -- even when it's made in bad faith -- is part of the public service job, she decided to ask the FCC to open an investigation into the station. She attempted to justify this by quoting the FCC's own words back at it, noting that FCC rules say "intentionally distorting the news" is forbidden.

Distortion in newscasting has been a thing for years and it takes far more than the pretty innocuous examples provided by Mosby to get the FCC to start trifling with the First Amendment. Most of the anti-Mosby stuff seemed to be the usual anti-whatever stuff that happens when news stations call in commentators to add a bit more opinion to the news. Mosby also complained she was receiving too much coverage, citing WBFF's 248 stories about her in 2020 -- far more than she observed at any competing news outlet.

Mosby claimed she had all the respect in the world for the First Amendment. But apparently WBFF had too much free speech at its disposal and that's why the FCC needed to step in.

One FCC commissioner has responded [PDF] so far. And it's Brendan Carr, the FCC's hackiest partisan. Taking a break from his usual business of assailing social media companies for dumping his favorite people from their platforms while vaguely threatening to do "something" about Section 230 immunity, Carr manages to make some good points despite himself. It probably helps that his target -- Marilyn Mosby -- is on the other side of the political fence. (h/t Volokh Conspiracy)

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr issued the following statement in response:

“The State’s Attorney’s Office, led by Democrat Marilyn Mosby, has launched a chilling and direct attack on free speech and journalistic freedom. The complaint her office filed with the FCC asks the Commission to censor a newsroom simply because journalists are doing their constitutionally protected jobs and shining a light on the work of the State’s Attorney. Invoking the power of the state to silence journalists for unfavorable coverage strikes at the very heart of the First Amendment.

“It is particularly troubling that a public official would work to silence reporters that are investigating her work at a time when federal prosecutors have already opened a criminal investigation into her activities.

“Indeed, the day after the State’s Attorney’s Office filed its complaint with the FCC, the targeted newsroom was awarded four prestigious Regional Edward R. Murrow awards for journalism excellence, including for one of its stories covering the work of the State’s Attorney’s Office.

Ouch. Carr then flips Mosby's words around to go after her, saying the only "troubling, abhorrent and downright dangerous" behavior he sees here is Mosby's attempt to silence her critics by siccing the FCC on them.

Then it goes a bit off the rails, with Carr turning this into a partisan thing rather than a "don't ask the FCC to fuck with the First Amendment" thing.

This complaint is part of a recent and troubling surge in efforts by Democrat officials to pressure the FCC and its regulated entities into censoring news coverage and political speech that Democrats don’t like. The FCC should make clear that it will not operate as the DNC’s speech police. That is why the FCC must dismiss this complaint with prejudice by the end of today.

That's pretty rich, considering this statement was released the same day it came to light the Trump/Barr DOJ sent a grand jury subpoena to Twitter demanding personal information about a user currently being sued for hurting GOP Congressman Devin Nunes' feelings. Abuse of federal powers is pretty bipartisan. But the most recent administration will be remembered forever for its four years of antipathy towards journalists and critics of Donald Trump.

The other commissioners will have to weigh in before this is final, but I don't like Mosby's odds. No matter which side of the political spectrum the other commissioners sit on, there's nothing in Mosby's complaint that justifies opening an investigation that has the potential to wreak havoc on free speech protections.

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Filed Under: 1st amendment, brendan carr, fcc, free speech, marilyn mosby, news coverage
Companies: wbff


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  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 19 May 2021 @ 10:08am

    FCC to Marilyn Mosby: "Did you just go full Republican? Don't go full Republican!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tim R (profile), 19 May 2021 @ 11:29am

    Mosby is a litigator whose job it is, objectively, to know the law. That she sent this request shows either a) she's ignorant of the law, or b) feels she's above it. Neither has a place among public legal officials, and at the very least, she should be held accountable for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2021 @ 12:02pm

    Given that Fake news fox argued that they aren't actually a news

    I feel like fox News dug a legitimate hole by arguing that they were not a news station, and should eat the complaint.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 20 May 2021 @ 8:52am

      Re: Given that Fake news fox argued that they aren't actually a

      I feel like fox News dug a legitimate hole by arguing that they were not a news station, and should eat the complaint.

      I think you're either talking about the Tucker Carlson thing, which is completely unrelated, or another thing which basically didn't happen and would also be unrelated anyway. Fox News != Fox affiliate station.

      https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/fox-skews/

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 19 May 2021 @ 12:22pm

    a recent and troubling surge in efforts by Democrat officials to pressure the FCC and its regulated entities into censoring news coverage and political speech that Democrats don’t like. The FCC should make clear that it will not operate as the DNC’s speech police.

    That's pretty rich, considering that...

    ...the one and only reason Nathan Simpington is on the FCC board is as part of Republican officials' troubling surge in efforts to pressure the FCC and its regulated entities into censoring news coverage and political speech Republicans don't like, turning the FCC into the GOP's speech police.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 19 May 2021 @ 1:44pm

    'How dare you act like someone from my team?!'

    A lovely two-for-one in the form of a richly deserved raking over the coals for Mosby and a hypocritical unintentional self-own by Carr ragging on a democrat for something his team's been very enthusiastic about for years.

    Hopefully the resulting and well earned public humiliation, along with the realization that she just handed the local station plenty of ammo to use against her will remind Mosby that people talking about you is part of the job, and if she doesn't like it trying to get the government to shut someone up is not the proper response.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 May 2021 @ 6:37pm

    Something something it's only bad when THEY do it, not when WE do it.

    Politics is equal opportunity about trying to use their power to apply pressure to the little people. Both sides do it & pretending its a red or blue issue says everything we need to know. It is an accepted practice & very rarely do the underlings actually push back... but then will try to protect their side from blame.

    Both sides will keep claiming its the other side thats abusing it rather than admit the abuse is rampant & everyone should be sent to their rooms without dessert.

    The dysfunction is real but until people accept its everywhere and not just a their side thing nothing will be fixed.

    The self-centerness has a bodycount over 500K, that will keep going, perhaps its time to suggest that things will only get better when we stop asking what the country owes me & ask what the country owes everyone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    fixcydia (profile), 24 May 2021 @ 1:04pm

    good app

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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